With a little more than a month to go until a special primary election, the battle to replace state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in a Miami House district is continuing to heat up and some of the biggest names in Florida politics are throwing their support for one candidate in particular.
Gov. Rick Scott announced a primary election would be held July 25 with a special election held Sept. 26 to replace Diaz, who is resigning from his seat to run for Florida’s 40th Senate District to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned in April after using racial slurs and profane language to fellow lawmakers.
Two Republican contenders have emerged for Diaz’s seat in HD116: Jose Mallea and Daniel Perez.
Mallea has already dipped his hand into Florida politics -- he’s a well-connected GOP operative who has jumped from campaign to campaign over the years, heading up U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s senatorial campaign committee in 2010 before leaping to Newt Gingrich’s Florida team in 2011.
Mallea also served as a senior adviser for Hispanic outreach to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Perez, on the other hand, is a newbie to politics. He works as an attorney and is a first-time candidate for the House of Representatives.
Mallea is better connected than most candidates and those connections seem to have paid off so far -- he’s already nabbed the backing of some of the biggest names in Florida politics.
His former boss -- who just happened to be governor -- and a former House Speaker all say he’s the best man for the job.
"There is no question Jose Mallea is the right leader for District 116," said Jeb Bush in a statement. "Jose has an inspiring personal story of working hard to achieve success in both business and public service, and now wants to ensure that same American dream is attainable for everyone, not just a select few. I know that Jose will effectively put his conservative principles and leadership skills to work in Tallahassee for the community he loves and for our great state."
Former House Speaker Will Weatherford also said he was fully on board with Mallea’s campaign.
“Jose Mallea is a principled conservative, committed to limited government and lower taxes,” said Weatherford. “I’ve known Jose for many years. He’s a strong leader with a solid work ethic who will promote policies to create jobs and safer communities. District 116 will be well served by his fresh, conservative voice in Tallahassee.”
Mallea said he was “honored” to have Weatherford’s support and if elected, promised to shape his term
“I look forward to following his model of servant leadership and commitment to increasing opportunity for everyone by keeping taxes low and supporting pro-growth policies,” he said.
Mallea has slightly more campaign cash on hand than Perez, with nearly $90,000 in his war chest, while Perez has raised around $50,000.
Former community newspaper publisher Ross Hancock has also thrown his name in the ring for the seat as a Democrat. Hancock made headlines when he nearly beat out Rep. Erik Fresen in House District 114 in 2012.
Hillary Clinton won HD116 last November, but HD116 is susceptible to ticket-splitting, with Republicans like Diaz handily winning elections each cycle.
The special election will be held next month.